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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Challenges FBI Information Gathering; Files Suit on Behalf of J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation For IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 27, 1990 Challenging the FBI's improper maintenance of files detailing protected First Amendment activities, the American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit in federal District Court in the District of Columbia on behalf of the J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation and its President, Lance Lindblom. The lawsuit charges that the FBI has illegally kept files on the First Amendment activities of Lindblom and the Foundation, which makes grants to other charitable organizations to further human rights, civil liberties and social justice. The 14-year- old, Chicago-area foundation also supports efforts around the world to protect freedom of expression. The ACLU's lawsuit contends that the FBI's maintenance of files is unlawful under both the U.S. Constitution and the Privacy Act, a federal law enacted in 1974 that prohibits maintenance of government files on First Amendment activities except in limited circumstances. The suit also asks that the FBI be forced to release portions of its files on the Foundation's and Lindblom's activities that it has refused to disclose and that it then be required to destroy the files. "The FBI has no right to keep tabs on American citizens based on their exercise of First Amendment freedoms," said Kate Martin, the Director of the ACLU's National Security Litigation Project. "The maintenance of files on the Foundation and Lindbloom appears to be another in a long history of such improper FBI activity, from the monitoring of the civil rights and antiwar movements in the 1960s and the 1970s to the recent illegal surveillance of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)." Martin explained that the Foundation supports organizations that endorse causes that were at the time or are now contrary to official United States policy. It is apparently for this reason, she said, that the FBI has gathered information on Lindblom and the foundation. "The FBI's activities betray an alarming hostility to democratic principles," Martin said. "The notion that the FBI can maintain files on people solely on the basis of their association of others has no place in a free society." In 1988, Lindblom and the Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, seeking copies of all documents about them. Although the FBI has released some of the documents, almost all of them were heavily censored. The ACLU suit contends that the FBI's illegal maintenance of material has a "chilling effect" on Lindblom and the Foundation. "It is important to the work of the Foundation and to Lindblom's work as President of the Foundation that both be free of FBI surveillance and the maintenance of an intelligence file," the suit says. In commenting on the suit, Lindblom noted the irony of the FBI maintaining files on the Foundation when the group has funded activities to promote freedom of expression throughout the world, including in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and China. "As an American who works for human rights around the world, I am outraged that my country engages in such insidious police state tactics of keeping secret files on law-abiding organizations and people," Lindblom said. "With the Cold War over, countries around the globe are embracing the principles of free speech and freedom of association and are dismantling their repressive internal security systems. "Although our government has applauded these developments, the FBI's actions in this case demonstrate that our own government refuses to actually implement its rhetorical policies at home," Lindblom said, adding that it is important that the FBI acknowledge that keeping files on constitutionally protected activities is wrong.


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